Parker mission to "touch" the Sun, ready to launch

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Protected by a sophisticated heat shield the probe is created to go closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft. Zurbuchen and Fox also presented Parker with NASA's distinguished public service medal.

Nasa is set to launch a spacecraft on a scorching journey towards the sun, with an aim to offer the closest-ever glimpse of the star at the centre of the solar system.

Scientists want to learn about the solar wind which causes geomagnetic storms. There are no technical issues being worked at this time.

It weighs a mere 635 kg.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, said Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the US. Combined, all three stages will give the probe the vast speed needed to successfully orbit our star.

Of course, the PSP is more than a collection of instruments.* It's headed straight for regions reaching up to 2500° F and, at its fastest, it will reach 430,000 miles per hour-giving it the record for fastest spacecraft ever!

During its nominal mission lifetime of just under 7 years, Parker Solar Probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun - reaching within 3.8 million miles of the Sun's surface at closest approach.

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"And the first thing we will do when we get on orbit is encounter the planet Venus". We've studied it from missions that are close in, and even as close as the planet Mercury, but we have to go there.

"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI. And now, six decades later, a spacecraft that will revolutionize our understanding of the phenomenon is prepared to launch. While the previous NRL telescopes are on spacecraft either on lower Earth orbit or just outside of Earth's orbit, they are still getting fuzzy views of the Sun. The probe, which is described as the size of a small auto, features a 4.5-inch thick carbon fiber and foam shield that will help protect the spacecraft from the Sun's intense heat.

To withstand the 2500-degree heat, scientists have developed a four-inch carbon shield to keep the instruments inside the $1.5 billion probe at room temperature.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will fly closer to our star than any other man-made object.

The spacecraft will hit 6,90,000 kmph in the corona at closest approach.

The mission's objectives include "tracing the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the sun's corona and solar wind, determining the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind and explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles".

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